Miranda Sutter is a vegan, a bartender, and a writer – not necessarily in that order. She knows that the next Great American Novel is rolling around inside her head, if she can just find the right inspiration… The solution? Consult with one very dead writer by the name of Ernest Hemingway. When a handsome stranger saves a choking woman, Miranda knows she’s found a hero she can base her book on, but when she begins stalking him to learn more about his life, she’s in for more than she bargained for. Along the way, she will have to deal with long-buried grief and fear, a crisis of faith, an unwelcome housemate, a clingy gothic poet, the hero’s ex-wife, and a very hairy dog. Her crazy antics are sure to land her in jail… or in love!
If you're new, read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 part 6, part 7 and part 8 first.
Wednesday, April 18 (continued)
Afternoon shifts suck at Echelon. With thirty-one bucks in tips in my pocket and six hours of polishing glassware behind me, I am driving home and looking forward to whipping up some stir-fry with tofu and homemade peanut sauce over brown rice.
The scene I find at home makes me lose my appetite immediately.
"Damn it, Aiden! It's nice enough outside. Why couldn't you cook that carcass on the barbecue?" He knows how I hate the smell of meat being cooked in the house, for crying out loud. Why would he do this?
"Aw, lighten up, Sis," he slurs.
Obviously, I have missed happy hour at my house. Both Chad and Aiden are drunker than ten sailors. What was a brand-new bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon is now nearly empty and sitting on the countertop, its cork lost somewhere. An open bottle of Petrón tequila and half a bottle of Captain Morgan's spiced rum flank the waning Woodford.
Aiden insists, "I'm just trying to be a good host to your friend, you know."
"Yeah, Miranda. Chill. And have some steak." Chad offers me his plate.
"Not on your life, Chad." I start putting lids and corks on bottles and returning them to the liquor cabinet. A sink full of spotty, empty glasses stares back at me. I glare at them, sigh, and start scrubbing them out and putting them in the dishwasher.
"Was it something I said?" Chad attempts to whisper to Aiden, failing miserably. He's practically falling out of his chair, leaning hard toward my brother at the end of the small dining table.
"Nah. Don't worry about it, dude. She's vegan."
"Vegan? Like from Las Vegas?" Chad opens his eyes wide.
"No, dumbass. She doesn't eat meat. Or eggs. Or dairy. She doesn't wear leather or wool or silk or… what else, Sis?" Aiden looks to me to complete his educational seminar.
"Honey. I don't eat honey." I snap the dishwasher shut.
"Why not? What the hell is wrong with honey?" I can tell this conversion with Chad is going to be completely fruitless, but I indulge him, nonetheless.
"You see, Chad, I feel that eating should be a celebration of life. I simply don't feel that I, an intelligent human being, can choose to inflict suffering and death in order to celebrate life. The rest, like not wearing leather or wool, just follows naturally. If I am going to have a conviction, it can't be halfway." I look directly at Chad, who is staring at me like I am speaking a foreign language. To him, I suppose it is.
He gazes at me blankly for a moment, then sputters, "But what's wrong with honey? You eat fish, right?"
I shake my head at Aiden, who is chuckling. "Dude, just leave it alone. Just leave it alone. It's the one thing she just doesn't bend on. But, hey - more steak for us, right?" He lifts his glass of bourbon up and Chad meets it with his own. "Cheers!"
Chad gets up and stumbles to the kitchen counter. He's looking for the liquor I put away. Not that he needs any more, of course. "Ya know," he calls, too loudly, "there was this one girl I tried to bone one night after a show. She was like, super-hot and I really wanted her to, you know, go down on me, but - Hang on a second…"
He turns and vomits in the sink. Nasty.
Unbelievably, he goes on with his story, mid-sentence. "…but she wouldn't. Said it was some sort of religious thing or something. So, I guess she didn’t eat meat, either, heh. Just like you, Miranda." He walks back to the table. There's a chunk of puke hanging from the collar of his Billabong shirt. "So does that mean you don't give blowjobs, either?"
Drunken loser. Sometimes, I hate boys. Sighing, I grab a Diet Coke out of the refrigerator and sit down at the table. Chad's eyes are boring holes through my body.
"You know, Miranda," he mumbles, "I gotta tell ya, you're pretty sexy. I've seen the way you work behind that bar. It's like it's some sort of dance or somethin'. It's like… you just slide, all smoothly and everything, like you're some sort of exotic bar dancer or somethin'. Know what I mean?" He's asking Aiden.
"Hey, man, you're drunk. I mean, I'm drunk, but you're drunker, I think. Maybe you should just keep your thoughts to yourself, eh? Respect my sister, man." Aiden's head is bobbing from side to side, like he's trying to focus on something that won't stay still.
"Nah, man, it's cool. I respect her plenty." Chad turns to me. "Don't I, Miranda?"
I am seriously not in the mood for this. Not in my own house. "Whatever, Chad. Let's just drop it, okay?"
He's leaning back in his chair, which is turned slightly away from the table. "Aw, Mandy. It's cool. You know I respect you, right? 'Course, if I thought Gwen wouldn't find out, I'd like to get that fine ass of yours into my bed…"
I stand up, positioning myself in front of Chad's chair. He's still leaning back, his legs spread. Stepping in between his legs, I lean toward him and softly touch his face. "Oh, Chad," I purr, "Gwen was just telling me the other night that she might like to date me sometime. Wouldn't that be a nice treat for you? Hmm? Me and Gwen together? And maybe you?" Chad is literally panting. He nods his head furiously.
With one look, Aiden knows what I'm about to do. He shakes his head at me slightly and then shrugs, knowing he can't stop me even if he wants to.
With one swift motion, I hook my foot under the leg of the tipped chair and pull up, sending the chair straight backward with Chad still in it. His head smacks the floor, hard, and he's so stunned he can't move.
"Fat chance, you repulsive little freeloader!" I'm standing above him now, looking over him. He looks scared. Good. "Oh, and Chad?" I coo, "Don't call me Mandy, okay?"
Aiden's smirking at me. "'Night, Sis."